European Union officials are preparing to bring antitrust charges against Amazon for abusing its dominance in internet commerce to box out smaller rivals, according to people with knowledge of the case.
Nearly two years in the making, the case is one of the most aggressive attempts by a government to crimp the power of the e-commerce giant, which has largely sidestepped regulation throughout its 26-year history.
The European Union regulators, who already have a reputation as the world’s most aggressive watchdogs of the technology industry, have determined that Amazon is stifling competition by unfairly using data collected from third-party merchants to boost its own product offerings, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deliberations were private.
The case against Amazon is part of a broader attempt in the United States and Europe to probe the business practices of the world’s largest technology companies, as authorities on both sides of the Atlantic see what they believe is a worrying concentration of power in the digital economy.
Margarethe Vestager, the European Commissioner who leads antitrust enforcement and digital policy, is also examining practices by Apple and Facebook. In Washington, the Justice Department, Federal Trade Commission and Congress are targeting Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.
William Kovacic, a law professor at George Washington University, said the tech industry was facing a “striking critical mass” of attention from governments around the world, including Australia, Brazil and India. He said that regulators in Brussels and Washington may deploy so-called interim measures against the companies, a rarely used tool that could force Amazon and other large tech platforms to halt certain practices while a case is litigated.
The case stems from Amazon’s treatment of third-party merchants who rely on its website to reach customers. Investigators have focused on Amazon’s dual role as both the owner of its online store and a seller of goods that compete with other sellers, creating a conflict of interest.
Authorities in Europe have concluded that Amazon abuses its position to give its own products preferential treatment. European officials have spent the past year interviewing merchants and others who depend on Amazon to better understand how it collects data to use to its advantage, including agreements that require them to share certain data with Amazon as a condition of selling goods on the platform.
Many merchants have complained that if they have a product that is selling well on Amazon, the company will then introduce its own product at a lower price, or give it more prominent placement on the website.
So yeah, I had a talk about that in 2019